Malvina Reynolds

Sings the Truth

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How many other musicians made their major-label recording debuts as grandmothers in their mid-sixties, as Malvina Reynolds did on this circa late-1966/early-1967 LP, produced by John Hammond? But those were different times, which saw ridiculously uncommercial, avowedly antiestablishment albums released by the labels of large corporations. And this is certainly an uncommercial record, Reynolds' wavering voice -- even the liner notes disclose how "she admitted to one critic that she had a semi-permanent frog in her throat" -- backed by plain acoustic guitar-dominated instrumentation, though it sounds like a bass is in the mix at points. As froggy as it is here, though, her voice was in better shape than it would be on her 1970s recordings for the small Cassandra label. And this does give you the chance to hear Reynolds' own versions of her two most famous songs, which were primarily associated with other performers on record -- "Little Boxes" (which was a small hit for Pete Seeger) and "What Have They Done to the Rain?" (a hit for the Searchers, and also recorded by Joan Baez, Marianne Faithfull, and the Seekers). Those two compositions, particularly "What Have They Done to the Rain?," are the best songs on the LP, which otherwise ranges from moving and inspirational '60s folk ("I Don't Mind Failing," the melancholy closer "Bitter Rain") to unappealingly didactic folk protest. In part because of that streak of blunt righteousness, and in part because the melodies and singing often aren't that strong, much of this hasn't dated well, even if the spirit of Reynolds' anger and satire -- targeting bigotry, suburban conformity, religious fundamentalism, and overdevelopment -- remains right-on and commendable in many ways.

Track Listing

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time
1 1:56
2 3:55
3 1:36
4 5:03
5 2:02
6 4:36
7 1:53
8 2:33
9 3:27
10 1:59
11 3:02
12 1:24
13 2:09
feat: Victor Jara
15 2:50
16 1:38
17 2:10
18 2:13
19 2:59
20 2:17
21 2:24
22 4:12
23 2:27
24 2:07
25 3:41
26 1:48
27 2:42
28 3:56
29 3:35
blue highlight denotes track pick